STM accelerates smart grid connectivity

  • February 17, 2021
  • Steve Rogerson

To accelerate G3-PLC Hybrid connectivity in smart-grid and IoT devices, ST Microelectronics has revealed a development ecosystem for its ST8500 programmable power-line communication (PLC) modem chipset.

Comprising two evaluation boards targeting 868 and 915MHz licence-free RF bands, with documented firmware, the ecosystem helps users build and test nodes that comply with G3-PLC Hybrid, a standard for dual PLC and RF connectivity.

Equipment such as smart meters, environmental monitors, lighting controllers and industrial sensors containing the ST8500 chipset, which supports G3-PLC Hybrid, can select the powerline or wireless channel autonomously and change dynamically to ensure the most reliable connection.

Launched in 2019, the chipset combines the ST8500 protocol controller system-on-chip (SoC), which runs STM’s G3-PLC Hybrid firmware, with the STLD1 PLC line driver and S2-LP sub-GHz radio. Devices containing the chipset are backwards compatible and interoperable with any G3-PLC network.

Swiss firm STM’s hybrid protocol stack is based on G3-PLC, IEEE 802.15.4, 6LowPan and IPv6 open standards. By embedding support for RF mesh at the physical (phy) and data-link layers, the ST8500 combines the strengths of powerline and wireless mesh networking for communication between smart nodes and data collectors. Unlike simple point-to-point links, hybrid mesh networking interconnects nodes extensively to improve reliability, strengthen fault-tolerant connections and extend communication distance.

The two hardware development kits handle PLC and RF connectivity as well as application processing. The EVLKST8500GH868 kit is configured for 868MHz RF operation as recommended in the EU, while the EVLKST8500GH915 kit operates in the 915MHz band used throughout the Americas and Asia. Each kit comes with the STSW-ST8500GH software framework and documentation.

Ready to combine with an STM32 Nucleo board for scalable application processing and compatible with STM’s portfolio of X-Nucleo expansion boards for convenient function extension, the kits provide a platform for developing a wide range of smart-grid and IoT applications.

The EVLKST8500GH868 and EVLKST8500GH915 are available from STM and distributors for $250.